By Scott Tibbs, April 22, 2008
Former Monroe County Republican Party chairman Franklin Andrew caught a number of people off guard on Sunday when he announced that he would be stepping down as MCGOP chairman effective April 21. Andrew said in an e-mail announcement that he needed to spend more time focusing on a new business venture and wanted to step down sooner rather than later so the party could have as much time as possible to get organized.
I've known Frank for nearly ten years now, and I think he's been one of the best chairman I have seen in the 12 years I have been involved in Monroe County politics. He was an extremely hard working chairman and had a strong relationship with the IU College Republicans, bringing a large number of IU CR's on board to work for the local GOP in 2006. The next chairman needs to continue building on that relationship, because College Republicans have always been a vital part of the local Republican Party.
Frank was not without his detractors. The most vocal of these were what I call the "bitter old hag" wing of the Republican party, unhappy malcontents who, lacking the intellectual capacity to engage on philosophy or political strategy, instead resort to backbiting, gossip and vicious personal attacks on Frank and his allies within the GOP. It should come as a surprise to no one that the bitter old hags loved to launch those attacks while hiding behind fake names on local internet forums. I have far more respect for local democrats than I do for the bitter old hags.
There are people who had legitimate differences with Frank's leadership style, but there are also a number of malcontents in the party interested only in personal gain. These people (who represent the most divisive faction within the party while screeching endlessly about party unity) are not liberals, moderates or conservative. Wherever they stand ideologically (and I do not doubt that some are conservatives), they are malcontents. I refer to these malcontents as bitter old hags, because their behavior defines them as such. They will continue to be a problem for the local Republican Party no matter who the next chairman (or chairwoman) is, dividing the party and discouraging people from getting involved in local politics.
Frank will probably be best remembered for the infamous recount/contest after the 2006 elections, where a large number of highly suspicious ballots raised serious concerns. (See articles from December 5, 2006, December 14, 2006, December 15, 2006 and March 5, 2007.) Both the Democrats and the GOP malcontents squealed, but I'm still convinced that Franklin did the right thing. If nothing else, he made it clear that someone is watching the electoral process and no shenanigans will be tolerated in 2008.
Many Conservatives were quite happy with Frank's election as chairman, and he's certainly been good for the party. Unfortunately, he got caught up in the national tide in 2006, and Democrats energized about national races gave Republicans heavy losses in local elections, just four years after significant Republican gains in the 2002 county elections. John Shean faced the same problem with a Democrat activist base energized about getting rid of President Bush in 2004. It is fairly certain that the Democrats will again have an advantage in the national trend, especially with Barack Hussein Obama as the presumptive Democrat Party nominee. If the local GOP hopes to stay competitive, it needs to reduce the margin of loss in national races to put local candidates within striking distance.
While I will be a precinct committeeman after I win the uncontested May 6 primary in Perry 5, I am not a PC yet and will not get to vote in the caucus to select a new chairman. My inclination is to allow the malcontents to take control of the chairmanship. This will accomplish three things. First, if things go badly, they will have little credibility to blame conservatives leading the party. Second, by giving the malcontents less to complain about, it should help muffle their bitterness and keep them from dividing the party further. Finally, having conservatives step away from party leadership liberates conservatives to focus on supporting the candidates they support most, focusing resources on getting those candidates elected. This worked very well in 2002.
Being chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party is one of the worst jobs in politics. If things go well, the candidates get the credit for winning their races. If things go poorly, the county chairman gets the blame. The county party chairman faces the nearly impossible task of unifying a party that has significant ideological differences within the "big tent", especially on social issues. It's not a job that many want or are qualified to hold. I wish the best to whoever is unfortunate enough to end up with the job next.